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There’s no press-credential conspiracy

March 30, 2009 - 2:59 pm

Among the comments left by readers of Eric’s blog post about San Diego News Network (SDNN) editor Ron James’ exit, one points to blogofsandiego.com and the “ugly truths” its author, Pat Flannery, reports. While Flannery does dig up some interesting stuff on local government, his March 26 entry, “San Diego really is a police state,” isn’t among the “ugly truths” he’s exposing. Flannery asserts that SDNN was denied press credentials by Mayor Jerry Sanders and because the reporters didn’t protest, Flannery will no longer be an SDNN columnist. He writes:

Unbelievably, the Mayor, through his Police Chief, refused [SDNN] press credentials until they “prove themselves”. He has put them on a six months probation! After six months of reporting the news to his satisfaction, he may extend press credentials to them. SDNN acquiesced. I quietly withdrew.

Really? Our mayor spends time thumbing through press credential apps? I checked with Jerry Sanders’ spokesperson, Rachel Laing. Here’s her response:

This is complete nonsense. The mayor’s office has absolutely no involvement with the Police Department’s handling of the press passes that enable holders to go behind police lines. The police are rightfully cautious about whom they grant those passes to; however, they don’t ask us, and we don’t get involved in that process.

As far as Flannery’s assertion in his post that “police license the media” to control who gets into press conferences, Laing said:

As you know, journalists needn’t hold any kind of credentials to enter City Hall, attend a city press conference, make an inquiry with any city media relations person or request public records.

Police department spokesperson Monica Munoz sent me a copy of the department’s policies on press credentials. The policies state that the applicant “must represent a news agency which… has been published or broadcast at regular intervals of at least once a month for the preceding six months.” So, that’s where the six-month time frame comes from. The policies also point out the reason for credentials in the first place: “The applicant must demonstrate a need to cross police and/or fire lines on a regular basis.” In other words, it’s not about getting access to the mayor.

Addendum 3/31: I just found out that Eric Wolff talked to Ron James last week and James said that they’d worked everything out with SDPD and they’re going to get the credentials.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Amberite permalink
    March 30, 2009 - 4:56 pm 4:56 pm

    Voice of San Diego reporters got press credentials in their first few weeks of operation — certainly they did not have to wait six months.

  2. Quick Draw Flannery permalink
    March 30, 2009 - 8:12 pm 8:12 pm

    SDNN was only officially launched for two days when Pat Flannery wrote his blog on the “police state” in SD. Just sayin’… There is something wack with the press pass being in the hands of the police, but did SDNN really tell them they would wait six months like good reporters? I doubt it.

  3. March 30, 2009 - 9:36 pm 9:36 pm

    There’s nothing “wack” with the police distributing press credentials since it gives the reporter permission to cross a police line (or get into City Hall without having to go through security). You have to have a background check conducted to get a credential. If SDNN truly was told to wait six months, they can always appeal.

  4. Dave permalink
    March 31, 2009 - 8:59 am 8:59 am

    Flannery is a loon.

    I think the VOSD people who started there, Amberite, were already credentialed reporters in San Diego while at other publications. That is why they did not have to wait, I suspect, they were in the system.

  5. Amberite permalink
    March 31, 2009 - 9:18 am 9:18 am

    Dave, if your theory is true, Flannery certainly would be “in the system” as would other SDNN reporters who come from other recognized publications. Yet they were all denied credentials b/c SDNN hasn’t been operational long enough, according to police regulations which state that the “news agency” must be operational for six months. Nothing about a reporter’s previous employment. And most definitely the early Voice of SD people were not all “in the system” — one fresh out of college, one from a community paper, one from out of Calif.

  6. March 31, 2009 - 9:54 am 9:54 am

    Pat Flannery doesn’t have a press credential. He’s a blogger. I believe that VoSD started with only two reporters who would need to be credentialed (Andy, who’d been a reporter for the Daily Transcript) and Evan, who’d worked at the UCSD Guardian (Scott, Andy—if this isn’t correct, let me know). That was also four years ago—policies were updated in 2006 and 2008. But, I just talked to Eric Wolff, who talked to folks over at SDNN. They said that Flannery’s post isn’t accurate and they’ll be getting their credentials.

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